► CAR interviews Maserati chief
► Harald Wester on future model plans
► Levante SUV, Alfieri and GranTurismo
Maserati will start building the new Levante SUV in February 2016, the chief executive has confirmed to CAR - and it will be ‘100% Maserati’ with not a single component shared with Jeep, he claimed.
Harald Wester said the car had evolved ’significantly in every way’ since the Kubang concept car of 2011 pictured. Originally it had been conceived to share the architecture and systems of sister brand Jeep’s Grand Cherokee and be built in Detroit, but in a dramatic U-turn the company scrapped this plan and started over.
The Levante will instead be built in Italy at the Fiat group’s refurbished Mirafiori plant and is based on the modular platform of the Ghibli and Quattroporte - as will all future Maseratis. Despite spurning Jeep know-how, Wester claimed it would have genuine off-road ability too.
Why is Maserati building an SUV?
‘The global market for these sorts of luxury cars is one million units a year - and SUVs account for more than 50% of that market,’ said Wester. It’s a natural move as manufacturers scramble to launch 4x4s in the premium market.
He admitted Maserati would miss its target of building 50,000 cars annually by this year, on account of the delay to the Levante. ‘This is a year of consolidation for us, the luxury car market is not doing well,’ he admitted, adding that he hoped to hit the target a year late if the luxury market recovered. Not that Maserati is doing too badly: in 2014 it sold more new cars in one year than the total volume of Masers in existence!
What’s coming after the Levante?
Plenty. Wester confirmed the two-seater Alfieri sports car project was still live - and that Maserati was engineering a replacement for its Gran Turismo coupe too. He didn’t reveal dates, but we expect to see the F-type-rivalling Alfieri in 2017 and the GT in 2018. ‘One major new car a year is enough for us; I want to be able to get some sleep!’ Wester joked.
All will share the rear-/four-wheel drive architecture of the other Maseratis and engines will be familiar too: V6 petrol and diesels, with a rorty V8 for the upper-echelon sports cars. And Wester confirmed that the first plug-in hybrid of the range would arrive in the Levante crossover, from late 2017/early 2018. ‘This car will premiere many new technologies, which will then roll out across our range.’
Don’t go expecting a Maserati-fied LaFerrari, though. Wester ruled out any such model - meaning the Enzo-based MC12 was a one-off.